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Rebecca Jessen

When you’re at the end of the line with nowhere to turn - how far would you go to protect the one you love?

A man is found dead in an inner-city suburb, a police officer walks the blurry line between duty and loyalty, and a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks is on the run. Ana soon becomes a suspect in the murder investigation and as sole carer for her young sister is desperately trying to stay ahead of the law. In a surprising twist, the detective in charge of the case is no stranger and Ana is forced to face her past and the things she has left behind. Unsure of who she can trust and isolated by her crime, Ana is drawn into a passionate affair that breaks all the rules.

From the winner of the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards - Best Emerging Author category, Gap combines a gripping crime thriller with a style evocative of Dorothy Porter’s cult classic, The Monkey’s Mask.

‘This warm, spare novel is a powerful reminder of how young people can fall through the gaps, alone and unseen. Jessen’s story moves at a crackling pace. You will not want to put it down, and when you do, you’ll want to read it all over again.’ Lisa Jacobson, author of The Sunlit Zone


Rebecca Jessen won the Emerging Queensland Author prize at the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards for Gap, a novel-in-verse set in inner-city Brisbane that opens with the murder of a man in the shadows of the Gabba. Dorothy Porter pioneered the form, lesbian-detective-epic-noir, in her stunning verse novel The Monkey’s Mask. Is it simply testament to Porter’s swagger and genius that this highly specific style continues to resonate?

Unlike its predecessor, Gap is an outlaw narrative, displacing the detective’s point of view with that of the crime’s prime suspect. Ana tells the story of being on the run, not only from the murder itself, but also from a past of neglect, dysfunction and deprivation. It’s a narrative that often connects with Australian readers. A battler in the vernacular tradition, Ana is a cocky loser at once crippled with class doubt and emboldened by outsider irreverence. Having escaped the clutches of a rotten mother, the speaker takes on the responsibility of looking after her younger sister. Driven by a protective instinct, Ana’s best intentions are crosscut by a passion of the most dangerous sort – nostalgic desire for a lover who has suddenly returned.

The narrative is spare and unaffected, a tough distillation of noir convention. The free verse snakes across the pages, capturing the depletion and intensity that often marry well in the Australian suburbs. The clipped, downbeat tone sees the writing diverge from the temperamental range of Porter, tapping into a laconicism that creates immediacy and instant rapport. Jessen’s setting is highly recognisable, breathing the warm stink of game-day swill (‘people flocking/to the footy/or/the cricket/all the same to me’), as menace gathers around an unlikely survivor. In Gap, sprezzatura poetics, lesbian desire and the thriller genre come together in a visceral expression of the Australian psyche. It’s a gutsy homage to Porter, but Gap is additionally great as Jessen’s own study of rough love and resilience.

Lucy Van is a freelance reviewer.

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